Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Story of a Colourful Backpack

It was the first day of my last year in primary school and for the first time I was allowed to buy a backpack.
Before then I had used some old bags that my mother or my aunt used thirty years before, which I was a little ashamed of in front of all my classmates with their brand new shiny ones.
In the shop, I fell in love with this Invicta backpack at first glance. Multicoloured and bright, and I liked colours and still do. What's wrong with loving colourful things?
The price of the backpack was a little more than I was allowed, but my eyes were shining so much that my mother bought it for me anyway, and I recognise now, twenty years later, that this was indeed a great gesture, in a time when my family sometimes didn't even have money for petrol. 
Full of joy, I showed up at school on the first day of the new year, an important moment! What better way to celebrate than with my new backpack? As soon as I arrived in class, however, I realised that this happiness was very fragile. My backpack was definitely the most colourfulo one and the bunch of children of my class did not welcome the news with the same amount of enthusiasm I had. The backpack was nothing but a new manifestation of my diversity, of that different sensitivity I had, that made me perhaps gentler, more respectful, that made me love dance, that gave me a proper behaviour in every situation and explore the world with creativity. 

For years I had already been nicknamed, depending on the situation: "sissy", "female" (as if being a woman were to be an insult! But you go and explain that to an 8-year-old who's definitely biologically not a girl, and who wonders why people decide to describe him that way), "gay", "frocio", "finocchio", "checca", "ricchione", all of these being pejorative nicknames to define homosexuals. 
Italians get very creative when it comes to insulting gays. 
If you think about it, the Eskimos have so many words to describe the snow, we just as many for the gays. I wonder why.
And just another linguistic note. Did you know that in English the word "bad" derives etymologically from a word used in the past to define homosexuals? Homophobia has been so strong that over the years the word has gone on from just insulting gays to define all evil in general. Ask me why we need a gay pride again. 
This is to say how much our language also represents the voice of a culture that really doesn't spare any efforts to discriminate against minorities. 

But anyway, back to the bag. 
My joy for the new colourful purchase, which I was so happy to wear when I was going to school in the morning, immediately turned into an internal grey, a desire to sink, to disappear, to hide my bang and myself with it, to be transparent. It began with a black marker with which I tried to cover all the colours on the backpack and ended up with slowly ceasing to use the bag to go to school or anything else. I went back to using the old ones that I hated so much, but not so much as myself and that feeling of being different and not welcomed by those who were not like me. The bag stayed at home, in a closet.

The following year, the first of the middle school, I bought a new backpack. Blue. All blue. A colour that I didn't like and still don't like. All that coldness. I have always been green, orange and purple. The blandness of blue was not for me. 
Still, I bought that backpack. What could be more masculine than blue, no drawings or doodles, no chance of being identified among the crowd. I've always hated that backpack, it wasn't me, it didn't represent me. What it represented instead was my attempt to swallow who I really was. 
Many years of lies followed. Lies I was telling myself and others. I stopped watching some movies or listening to certain genres of music for fear of being judged, I decided that being a dancer wasn't the right thing for me and I created a barrier between me and any other form of art, including music. Until the end of high school, I did everything to conform to the norm, even though I don't think I ever really succeeded. 

All this hidden chaos could not remain locked up forever, though. When I reached the bottom, I started a long journey backwards. 
I am grateful for the fact that my family has always been open and allowed me to express these hidden identities without too many hiccups and that my life choices let me approach new people around me. More and more people who were able to accept the differences, who were open to dialogue and capable of exchanging ideas and welcoming new ones, rather than judging. 
I began the rediscovery of what I really was, of all my colours. 
A process which has of course implied a lot of pain. All the layers of hidden emotions and unspoken words, erected as a fortress to protect me. It took time and a lot of work to get rid of them, and I haven't finished yet.

Then, a couple of years ago I found my multicoloured backpack in the recesses of my home in Italy and I thought fuck it. I took it out, dusted it and put it back on my shoulders. 
Obviously, people continue to make comments, and some keep pointing the finger when they see all those colours on me.
Certainly it is not the typical backpack that a thirty year old would use to get around every day. Maybe it's not enough "adult" enough. 
But I think that adulthood can't be proven with what you wear. You can tie a millions of ties around your neck and remain deeply immature a few inches above, in your brain. 
I think that instead, adulthood can be proven by the fact that I can finally wear what I fucking want and not let myself be affected by the judgment of people who don't accept diversity, and that I can be who I really am and show it without fear of not being what people expect of me. 

This is what I've learned through all these years, and this is what the world should have told little Valerio on that first day at school with the new bag: "Don't worry about what they say. They are just scared of being different. But they are all different, we are all different. Some, however, decide to be like the others for fear of being exposed and vulnerable. But you can be whatever you want, and if they don't accept it right away, you can choose to be strong and confident, with your ideas and feelings, walk forward, chin up. You'll see, slowly they will begin to understand that there is nothing to be afraid of. Show them. It's the only way you can live your life as you really want it, and it's the only way new ways of being and thinking can be spread, respected and accepted." 

I have learnt that. It took about twenty years, and I still have a lot to learn, but now here I am, traveling around the world with my colours on my back.

Now, inside my colourful bag, I decide to put whatever I want. :-)

Tuesday, 22 January 2019


It's that time of the year again. Every January I sit with my diary, pen in hand, and write a list of goals for the year.
This time I still haven't compiled the list. I feel that in this particular moment of my life the main thing I want is to find my own happiness, regardless of what I'm doing professionally or sentimentally or physically. Material goals are always good to keep you moving, that goes without saying, but I probably need to pause those for a moment in order to avoid becoming one of those unhappy little people.
So I think the only item on the list for now will be to be more honest with myself and others, being more vocal about my needs and not scared of showing who I am. And this will probably help me figure out what other material goals I want to have. :-)
What are your resolutions for this year? Let's talk about it!


In other news, I'm making made a little Spotify playlist with new music that flies to my ears every now and then. Listen here if you need some fresh music and let me know what new songs you have in your head lately. :)

Hope you have an amazing year, you deserve it, just like everyone else in the world. A whole year full of learning and winning and smiling :-)


Valerio x

Friday, 7 December 2018


When you stop trying to deny that death exists, things feel much easier.
Nothing we own will last forever, enjoy it while you can without worries.
Nothing we achieve will stay forever, enjoy the journey.
Whatever you do now shapes your future, don't think your actions have no consequences.
We might come back on this earth or we may not. If in doubt, treat it well.
Your happiness depends on the happiness of your surroundings. You can't be happy on your own.
You are one with your environment. You are one with the people around you.
Change your attitude and make this world a better one, this is what happiness is.
Your own happiness will follow.

My new official video was released on 22nd November! Have you watched it already? What did you think?
Drop me an email to let me know:

If you're late to the party, here's the video:

FOOLS is a song from my album " We Are Like Coloured Moths Towards The Sunlight"
Stream Fools on Spotify:
Stream Album on Spotify:
Music, lyrics, vocals, synth, harmonium, keyboards, backing vocals, programming: Valerio Lysander;
guitar: Nick Harris;
mandolin: Leo Polchar;
mixing: Nick Harris at Spare Room Recording - Music Production
mastering: Jay Fee at Conduction Mastering
Featuring the beautiful faces of some my most precious friends: Aaron Sibley Music, Sara Newton, Mónica Viñoly, Alessandro Prencipe, Yianna Sotiropoulou, Amani Z. Saeed, Jacopo Rossetto
Shot by: Go out of Tune
Editing and concept: Valerio Lysander

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Let's Talk About It?

The idea for my most successful song to date was born during a therapy session.

pic by Karl Mowbray

Some years ago I was having a very extenuating fight against my inner self, experiencing OCD, anxiety and paranoia every day. For three long years anxiety was the only emotion I could feel. Having to go back home when I was out with friends to check all my documents were in place, not being able to enjoy a movie because a constant thought would get fixed in my mind, washing my hands 100 times a day because I could get sick from using my own toilet (let's not talk about public toilets), thinking I could be framed for crimes I hadn't committed, being scared I could die for one reason or another. Just to name a few. That was my every day life. I felt like my life would have been a long path made of catastrophic thinking, floating among the worst possible future occurrences, never present in the here and now, always detached from my own self and the present moment, my head full of unnecessary negative, destructive thoughts. At the time I thought that it would never go away.

But luckily I was brave enough to seek help. I was lucky (after a couple of not-so-great experiences) to find a talented psychotherapist that understood what I needed and with whom I worked together to strengthen my structure and individuality and to make my anxious self a friend, rather than an enemy.
My therapy lasted three years, before I moved to London and I had to stop it, although sometimes I still meet my therapist when I go back home, like a regular check-up to see how things are going. And this is just because mental health should be treated exactly like physical health. When you get a cold, you most likely get paracetamol, if your back aches you go see a physician, if your throat is inflamed you go see an otolaryngologist. If the pain is in your head, what do you do?
Because of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, some people might still feel ashamed to share the fact that they see a therapist, or might not get into therapy in the first place.
But if we pretend it's not there, it's not going to go away. Accepting that we suffer from any mental illness is the first step to a happier life. And mental illness doesn't necessary mean being a psychopath killer. It could just mean that something just doesn't feel right. Just as when something doesn't feel right in your body and you go see a doctor, why not seeing a therapist or a counsellor when something doesn't feel right in your mind? It could be nothing, or it could be something, better work on it sooner rather than later in any case.

In my own experience, getting into therapy really helped me re-structuring myself and it gave me the support I needed to get out of that dim world I had created in my mind and not only that. In the long run, I also realise that what I learned about myself and the world around me during my sessions with my therapist not only made me healthier, but also allowed me to become more structured and aware. It made me a braver, lighter, brighter, happier, clever person.
It was exactly during one of these sessions that the idea of my song Cotton came out.
One of my mental issues was that I was very rigid with myself and I didn't allow me mental flexibility. My fear of not being enough, the shame of not being beautiful, clever, talented, strong enough had resulted in a very strong control issue, over other people and situations but also, and especially, over my own identity. Working with my therapist I learned that I could be more flexible, just like a cotton thread that, flexibly, changes its shape without changing its own essence. You probably know how the rest of the song goes.
But anyways, in addition to being a very useful inspiration for songwriting, my therapy (in my specific case it was a cognitive-behavioural approach) was definitely one of the best life choices I've taken. It was probably thanks to the human skills I acquired during my therapeutic journey that I grabbed my life back in my hands and decided to follow my career as a musician, then move to London, build a new life from scratch, create a whole new circle of friendships, restore relationships with old friends or relatives, re-define what I want and what I want to be, achieve career and life goals and ultimately live my life without being afraid of being joyful.

So actually, whether something is not ok in your mind or not, therapy is a very useful tool to gain skills that will help you have a better life in which you can be more centred, solid, structured, strong and happy.

And if you don't feel like going to therapy yet, maybe opening up to a friend could be the first step on this healing path. Keeping your griefs inside is not going to make them go away. There is always someone out there willing to listen to you, and sometimes giving words to feelings helps making them smaller and lighter to carry.

Non-mental hugs. :-)

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Indian Summers

Congrats to India for deciding that loving someone is not a crime!

And people still ask why we need a Gay Pride...

Knowing that in some other places of the planet people are jailed, beaten up or killed because of the people they love doesn't really make me feel accepted and at ease.
Being unable to tell my grandmother about someone I like or a boyfriend I have is not the greatest feeling in the world.
Spending your childhood asking yourself why everyone is so different from you is not the most gratifying.

So yes, we still need a Gay Pride to remind ourselves that we are not worse and no, you don't need a Straight Pride because nowhere in the world it's illegal to love a man if you're a woman or a woman in you're a man.
If you’re straight, nowhere in the world you will be judged for holding hands.
If you’re straight, nowhere in the world you will be told that it’s against nature to follow your nature.

We are very lucky to live in a place where people who don’t correspond to the stereotypes given by the norm can express themselves freely and although people may still judge sometimes, at least it’s not unlawful to kiss a lover, to show someone you love.
I have never been beaten up or not allowed to do something or go somewhere because of my sexual preferences, but that is still not enough, because the world around me made me feel I wasn’t quite the right thing anyway. I’ve fought the bloodiest inner battles and I have learnt to understand that being honest with myself and the world outside is the right thing to do, being myself is the right thing.

It’s been hard and it’s still hard but steps are being made forward luckily. Many countries are celebrating lgbt weddings, some others have allowed same sex partnership, some others are finally realising that the person you sleep with is none of their business and (at least) they don’t punish you for your kind of love (finally).
Not everywhere, not yet. But it’s getting better, and today is definitely a day to celebrate.

So cheers to India and to all the people who actively make this world better, and to all the people who are enlightened enough to change their own mind and let the light come in!

Monday, 30 April 2018

If You Were Me You Would Be

My new single "If You Were Me You Would Be" is OUT NOW!!!
If you've ever done something with your heart, passion, talent and efforts and nobody gave a SHIT about your value, this song is for you.

Download for FREE on Bandcamp:
Stream for FREE on Spotify:
Watch for FREE on YouTube:

If you like this or have liked my music so far, you can help me finish my album supporting me through my Kickstarter Campaign:
Send me a message for more info 


piano, vocals, harmonium, keyboards, backing vocals: Valerio Lysander cello: Sam Rowe
violin: Mónica Viñoly
drums: Gregorio Lucchese

music, lyrics, arrangements, production by Valerio Lysander(Valerio Alessandri)

piano and drums recorded by Jonathan McMillan @ Smokehouse Studios, London
vocals and violin, recorded by Nick Harris @ Spare Room Recording - Music Production, London
cello, recorded by Sam Rowe
mixing: Nick Harris @ Spareroom Recordings�
mastering: Jay Fee @ Conduction Mastering

artwork by Alessandro Prencipe

VIDEO: Shot with the help of Chiara Perlino Photographer and edited by Valerio Lysander

Special thanks to:
my brothers Giuliano and Matteo cooking, my dad Mario and my uncle Massimo farming, my cousin Simone shopping, Risia getting a massage, Matteo e Irene getting drunk, Martina being annoying, Arianna and Elisa eating, my aunt Gloria mourning, my uncle Atos tidying up coffins, Solly e Giada playing with bras.
The bar is Spirit 24, Monterotondo (RM), Italy.
The restaurant is A San Rocco Giuliano e Matteo, Monterotondo (RM), Italy.
The massage bed is Risia Shiatsu’s.
The clothes shop is Emporio Uomo, Monterotondo (RM), Italy.
The is A P B Agenzia Funebre, Monterotondo (RM), Italy.
The Underwear Shop is La Giarrettiera, Monterotondo (RM), Italy.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

I'm Screwed

My new single is finallllly out! :D

I'm Screwed, a cheeky song about liking someone to escape real life problems (and realising that's not right). Cause you know that's not right.

There's also a pretty video we shot with Go out of Tune in one shot! Watch me chase and be chased by hot guys and be slapped by a pretty scouse girl:

And share away! 
You can buy it on Bandcamp (also includes instrumental version) and it's also available on iTunes and Spotify (you know what I think about Spotify though...) 

Let me know what you think! :D